Love them or loathe them, Liverpool e-scooters here to stay in £6m deal

Voi's distinctive orange e-scooters have been hugely popular in the city, but they have not been without controversy.
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E-scooters could be a presence on Liverpool’s streets for another two years at least as the city council negotiates new terms for the hire vehicles.

For more than three years, the electric hire scooters have been a fixture across the city as part of a trial scheme, commissioned by the Department for Transport (DfT). Liverpool was one of 32 areas selected to pilot the programme. With the existing contract due to end in early April and the DfT extending the project by a further two years, the local authority has taken the decision to negotiate a new deal to 2026.

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The distinctive colourful scooters - operated by Swedish firm Voi - adopted areas from Liverpool Council following the closure of its CityBike scheme. A local authority cabinet report in 2022 said the size of the CityBike scheme reduced year on year, due to theft and vandalism, coupled with a lack of available funding to invest in new bikes.

As a result, the scheme became what the council described as 'unsustainable' due to the annual losses of around £300k each year. Now, authority officers have used delegated powers to go out to market to refresh their concession contract.

A report issued alongside the decision said: “It was originally procured in 2020 when e-scooter trials were an unknown quantity and was assessed to have a value below procurement thresholds. However, e-scooters have proved more popular than expected and the value of the existing concession contract has exceeded the Concession Contracts Regulations 2016 threshold.

“Therefore it is recommended that a new contract is procured to ensure compliance with the regulations, as well as ensuring the contract is future proofed and continues to deliver best value for the council.”

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The original deadline for the end of the trials was November 2021, before being extended until March 2022 to take into account the slower start as a result of the pandemic. Trials were further extended to the end of May 2024. Last November, the DfT announced a further extension of the trial up to May 2026. The council’s current e-scooter concession contract runs until Friday. It is estimated the contract is worth around £6m.

The report added: “The existing concession contract has featured different models of revenue payment to the council which the council has learned from as it gained experience in dealing with e-scooter concessions, so as part of the new tender process it is proposed to review the income generation opportunities to maximise value to the council.”

The Voiager 5 e-scooter in use on Jamaica Street in the Baltic Triangle.The Voiager 5 e-scooter in use on Jamaica Street in the Baltic Triangle.
The Voiager 5 e-scooter in use on Jamaica Street in the Baltic Triangle.

The scooters have not been without controversy however. In the last week, one couple in Fazakerley expressed their anger at the vehicles being dumped outside their home, while a business in West Derby faced a similar issue with scooters blocking the entrance to a print shop. The document added how the scooters have been reported to cause issues for the mobility and visually impaired, so the contract will need to be managed to ensure that they are operated and parked considerately to reduce the impact.

In 2023, the Swedish micromobility firm expressed its interest in furthering its reach across the Liverpool City Region. Sam Pooke, Voi senior policy manager for the UK and Ireland, told the city region combined authority’s transport committee in October it would be 'very interested' in delivering e-scooters to other councils in future should they be interested.